Renault Mégane II Renault Sport Buying Guide

Renault Sport Mégane offers an impressive mix of speed and practicality without associated steep running costs. Read on to find out what variants to pick

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How much to pay

• Project £2000-3000 • Good £3000-4000 • Concours £5000-7000 •

Most Expensive at Auction: £20,000 (Mint R26.R with low mileage)

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★★
Investment ★★★
Desirability ★★★★

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The second-generation Renault Mégane strayed from the herd thanks to its unique styling. But while customers took some time to become accustomed to that duck-tail rump, the model seems to have aged rather well. The Renault Sport version, too, was not universally acclaimed at launch, unlike the brand’s earlier sporty offerings, but incremental improvements saw it end its tenure on a high note.

The 2004 Mégane Renault Sport was not derided because it was short on firepower; after all, its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produced 222bhp, and in a straight line the car was a match for the competition. No, it was the way the Mégane tackled a twisty stretch of road that was the problem. Lacking the sharp, connected feeling that had elevated Renault’s previous efforts above the ordinary, this model just didn’t feel all that special from behind the wheel.

Renault took the criticism to heart, and released a Trophy model only a few months later. The revised suspension, brakes and steering gave it that sharp edge Renault Sport fans were looking for, but with only 150 of these models destined for the UK, more needed to be done.

This came in the shape of the 225 Cup, which had essentially the same mechanical upgrades as the Trophy. The main differences came in the slightly lower spec levels and the fact that Cup model production was limited only by how many people had the necessary £18,600 to buy one.

The incremental improvements continued, and the 225 F1 arrived in 2006 – so-named to promote Renault’s Formula 1 successes. Featuring some additional features such as new rear dampers and Recaro seats over the Cup version, it also had some visual differences to justify the slightly higher asking price.

More Renault Sport goodness arrived late in 2006, with the 230 F1 R26. Aside from the awkward, kitchen appliance-like nomenclature, this variant took the Mégane Renault Sport to a new level. A standard limited-slip diff and finely tweaked suspension gave it class-leading handling, while the louder exhaust bestowed a more purposeful soundtrack on the car.

Unable to step away from its masterpiece, Renault Sport engineers had one last fiddle and released the best variant of the lot. Based on the R26, the 2008 R26.R was stripped of its rear seats, climate control (air-con was retained), CD player and most of its airbags and soundproofing, which yielded a 271lb weight saving. A carbon-fibre bonnet, uprated suspension and optional equipment such as a titanium exhaust system and roll cage underlined its serious sporting intentions.

The result was a giant-slaying hot hatch that could set lap times well above its pay grade and held the FWD Nürburgring lap record for a time. In total, 230 were allocated to the UK and they are the most sought-after of the lot.

Your Renault Mégane II Renault Sport inspection checklist

Engine

The F4RT (yes, it is funny!) turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four was used for all the standard cars as well as the Trophy and Cup variants. The F1, R26 and R26.R had a modified F4R774 powerplant with a slight increase in power and modified internals

Servicing intervals include a cambelt change every 72,000 miles; it is pricey, so check it’s been done. It is not unusual for these cars to see track use, and remapped ECUs are also relatively common; specialists say that anything up to 260bhp is fine but much more can harm engine reliability. They also recommend the use of high-quality oils and the highest-octane fuel you have access to.

Faulty injectors can cause rough running, although a lumpy idle is normal while the engine is cold.

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Gearbox

A six-speed manual transmission was used on all variants; the gearchanges were somewhat ponderous and the R26.R had a factory-fitted short-shift kit. Clutches can last up to 60,000 miles between changes, but if the pedal feels excessively hard to engage the set-up could be on the way out.

Suspension and brakes

While the basic suspension design was used across all variants, there were numerous tweaks carried out with each successive model. The first 225 was a bit soft and imprecise, however the subsequent Cup, Trophy and especially F1 and R26 models all had significantly stiffer springs and uprated shocks. The R26.R had a wider track, too.

Suspension bushes should be checked at around the 60,000-mile mark, and the ball-joints can also start to squeak over time. There are a number of upgrade kits for these cars, and the early 225’s handling can be sharpened up with some stiffer springs and shocks.

The standard brakes are strong and fade-free, and were upgraded to Brembo units on Trophy and Cup models – although discs tend to have shorter lifespans than normal thanks to the hard-compound standard-fitment pads. Aftermarket brake kits are great for track days, but many set-ups can squeal when used around town.

A recall was carried out on the first batch of cars built in 2004. Here the front brake lines were located too close to the discs, which could cause excessive wear.

Bodywork

The base 225 and Cup models could be had in a five-door bodyshell, although most cars sold were three-door variants. Aside from the R26.R, which had a carbon-fibre bonnet (an expensive part to replace) and rear spoiler plus polycarbonate windows, the rest of the range featured a conventional steel bodyshell and standard window glass.

Rust should not be an issue, but poorly repaired accident damage can lead to corrosion, so check the car thoroughly.

Interior

The electrics on pre-facelift cars can be glitch, although buying a later model year does not guarantee a fault-free car. Test all the buttons and switches, and pay particular attention to the keyless entry card, dashboard lighting and headlight operation.

The interior is plasticky in places, but is well built and should stand up well to regular use. The seats are comfortable, and aside from some side-bolster wear should not look too tired. The R26.R had six-point harnesses as standard, although owners could opt for the normal belts as a no-cost option. F1 editions had unique Recaro front seats.

A recall was carried out on Renault Sport models built in 2007, for not having ISOFIX mountings fitted in the rear.

History

  • 2004: Renault Mégane II 225 Renault Sport released. Available in either three or five- door variants with 222bhp turbo and six-speed manual transmission
  • 2005: Limited-edition Trophy introduced with revised suspension and steering set-up. 160 sold in UK, all in Nimbus Grey. Cup version introduced, retaining Trophy’s running gear updates but with slightly less kit and a proportionately lower price tag
  • 2006: F1 Team Special Edition introduced. Further revisions to suspension and steering include new rear shocks, with unique Recaro front seats and decals. 230 F1 R26 introduced with standard limited-slip differential and freer-flowing exhaust system. Power marginally up (3bhp) but handling levels best yet. Lux version add some kit
  • 2008: R26.R released; removal of climate control, brace of airbags and less sound deadening yields a 271-pound weight saving over the R26. Wider track, carbon-fibre bonnet plus grippy tyres and suspension tweaks make this fastest FWD car around just about any race track. 260 allocated to the UK, but not many find homes
  • 2009: Production of Renault Mégane II ends

AutoClassics says…

The Mégane II Renault Sport was constantly developed and tweaked throughout production, so the later the model the more resolved and desirable they are. Some owners have taken it upon themselves to improve early Renault Sports, and while a mild remap, performance pads and some polycarbonate suspension bushes can enhance the driving experience, be on the lookout for poorly modified and overly boosted examples.

Aside from the somewhat underwhelming original car, there isn’t a bad choice in the range. The final decision comes down to what you intend to do with your duck-tailed hot hatch. The 225 Cup is a great all-rounder that offers most of what the Trophy and later F1 Team limited editions do, but is usually at a lower price point.

Meanwhile, the R26 is even sharper, and the standard-fitment LSD makes a big difference around a track. The R26.R is an uncompromising machine that still delivers the goods on the circuit, although it’s less than ideal for the daily commute and prices are steep for the best ones. The rest of the range offers a lot of value for the money and there are plenty to pick from, too. Fast, reliable and fun, the Mégane II Renault Sport still makes a very compelling case for itself.

Specifications

225 Cup/Trophy 2.0-litre Turbocharged 16-valve inline-four
  Power 222bhp
  Top speed 147mph
  0-60mph 6.4sec
  Economy 33.2 mpg

R26.R/R26/F1 2.0-litre Turbocharged 16-valve inline-four
  Power 227bhp
  Top speed 147mph
  0-60mph 6.0sec (5.8 for R26.R)
  Economy 32 mpg

Picture courtesy of Renault Media

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